How to Build a Stronger Referral Network

April 19, 2021

One of the most powerful marketing tools for your tire dealership isn’t some fancy new digital ad or geotargeted social media campaign, although I’m a big advocate of digital advertising tools like these. It’s good, old-fashioned word of mouth. 

I know that’s not a big surprise. People come into your dealership every day and tell you that a friend or another small business suggested they come to you for trustworthy automotive service or a great selection for new tires. 

How much of your business comes from these referrals? I’m guessing it’s a pretty high percentage. Customers typically don’t randomly pick a tire dealership. They do research online, they talk to friends and they get advice from other small business owners to help them decide where to go for tires or automotive service. 

It only makes sense to do what you can to make your referral network bigger and better. Strengthening and expanding your network is one of the best things you can do to drive sales to your business. It just doesn’t make sense to leave something this important to chance. 

Be intentional when it comes to nurturing your network and making it a powerful tool to drive sales. Here are three simple ideas:

Identify your partners. Aside from anecdotal information, are you keeping track of who’s sending you business? I would suggest creating a database of referral partners. The easiest way to gather this information is to simply ask your customers. Create a standard question on every invoice that asks, “Who referred you to us?” As you collect this information, you may see patterns develop. The nearby auto parts store may be sending you lots of customers or it may be a nearby coffee shop that’s your biggest fan. You may have a customer who’s a rainmaker and is sending you all kinds of new customers. You won’t know this unless you track it. Information is power and knowing who’s sending you customers creates all kinds of opportunities.

Be grateful. If someone is sending you a lot of customers, it is important that you thank that person. They should know that you know they are sending folks your way and that you’re grateful. If it’s a local business, send the owner a thank you note and offer their employees a special discount. The same goes for your most supportive customers. Each year during the holidays, send these referral partners a special gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just a thank you note and a gift card goes a long way. You may be surprised at how large your referral network is. By recognizing and thanking those people, they will send even more customers your way.

Make it easy for your customers. Create a simple “Refer a Friend” discount card that offers 10% off the next set of tires or automotive service and hand it out to every customer. Everyone likes to help their friends save money. This way, you’ll make it easy for customers to hand the card to a friend and send new customers your way. You should also encourage your customers to give you a great review on Yelp, Facebook or other social media platforms. Attach a simple card to the invoice that says, ‘If you like us, share it.’ This encourages happy customers to share their great experience at your dealership on their social feeds. Positive online reviews are so important to your overall reputation. And in the tire industry, reputation is everything. 

None of these things requires a big spend. They are little tactics you can employ to understand who’s sending you business and let them know you appreciate it.

Strengthen your network, so it continues to be a source of growth for your dealership. It just takes practice to gather referral sources as a daily part of your business and to follow up on them, so you’re taking care of the people who are taking care of you. 

Dan MacDonald is a freelance writer and former public relations vice president for Bridgestone Americas Inc. Dan founded MacDonald Communications, which focuses on public relations and digital marketing. He can be reached at 615-681-5387 or [email protected]  website:

About the Author

Dan MacDonald

Dan MacDonald is a freelance writer and former public relations director for Bridgestone Americas Inc. He founded MacDonald Communications, which focuses on public relations and digital marketing. Reach MacDonald at (615) 681-5381, [email protected], or on